How to Master Your Email Inbox
How to Master Your Email Inbox

How to Master Your Email Inbox

Lost in a sea of email folders? Ditch the folder frenzy, trust the search bar, and let’s get you from ‘Where’s that email?’ to ‘Nailed it!’ in no time.

Last Updated: August, 2023

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I was addicted to email folders, and now with this simple minimalist system, I have regained some control of my bulging inbox, increased productivity, and simplified communication management. Yay me, maybe it will work for you too?

Simplify! (or How to Master Your Email Inbox)

Organizing your email with minimal folders is not only efficient but also liberating. Gone are the days of sifting through countless folders, trying to remember where you placed that one important email.

Instead, embrace a streamlined approach that leverages the power of search and a few strategic folders.

Here’s how I mastered my inbox with minimalism:

Alright, let’s be real:

Boasting 1000 email sub-folders might make you feel like the librarian of the digital age but in reality? It’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack… if the haystack was on steroids. 🌾💪

Not only is it a masterclass in inefficiency, but every time I tried to locate that one email, I was playing a never-ending game of “Where’s Waldo?” in the digital realm. And let’s be honest; even Waldo would get lost in there! Time to declutter and save your sanity, one folder at a time.

Even IBM did some research and found that people, on average, search 17 seconds for an email but take 58 seconds to find it manually in their folder system! Yeah, right!

This is a simple life hack/time management hack that has helped remove some of the clutter from my daily work routine.

My Guiding Rules

And I have one guiding rule that is golden!


Why? Because who remembers where that one email went?

1. Embrace Search

Modern email platforms have powerful search functionalities. Instead of relying on dozens of folders, trust the search bar. Need an email from John about the quarterly report? Simply type “John quarterly report” into the search bar.

Only a few days ago, I needed to find some information and costings on an international move to help out a friend who was returning to Australia. Simple search, simple results, and within 7 seconds, I had located an email from 3 years back!

So embrace the search.

2. The Big Three

At the core of my minimalist approach are three primary folders:

  • Inbox: This is my main hub. Emails land here, and from here, I decide their fate.
  • Archive: Once I’ve read and addressed an email but believe I might need it in the future, I send it to the archive. It’s out of your immediate view but easily retrievable with a search.
  • Action: For emails that require a more time-consuming response or action, I move them here. This has become my to-do list. Aim to clear this folder regularly.

Some expand this to include the following, but I get along fine with the above three:

  • Waiting For: If you are waiting for a response or an action to happen, drip feed those emails into here.
  • Review: Emails that contain information that you may want to review in the future.
  • Reference: For emails that are processed and which you do not delete. But my Archive folder above does essentially the same thing!

3. Delete Ruthlessly

Not every email deserves space in your archive.

Newsletters you never read, promotional emails, or any other non-essential messages should be deleted immediately.

If you haven’t read it in a week, chances are you never will. Be decisive, even ruthless at times!

4. Use Labels or Tags (sparingly)

If you’re using an email system that supports labels or tags (like Gmail), consider using a few broad labels to categorize emails that you frequently search for.

This can be especially useful for work projects or ongoing commitments.

However, remember the goal is minimalism, so limit yourself. We are not replacing 200 folders with 300 tags.

5. Unsubscribe Relentlessly

If you find yourself consistently deleting emails from certain senders without reading them, it’s time to unsubscribe. Reduce all that white noise in your inbox.

We all need these t-shirts!

It’s quicker, easier, and involves less licking.”Douglas Adams on email

6. Regular Maintenance

I set aside specific times each day to process my inbox.

I address emails in the ‘Action’ folder, archive what’s necessary, and delete the rest. Aim for ‘Inbox Zero’ or as close to it as possible. You got this!

7. Use Filters and Rules

Use these to automatically send certain emails to the archive, the trash, or even your Action folder. For instance, if you receive regular reports that you don’t need to see immediately, set up a rule to send them directly to the archive.

8. Limit Notifications

To maintain focus and productivity, consider turning off email notifications or setting specific intervals for checking your email. This prevents constant interruptions and allows you to address emails with intention.

Remember, the goal is to make your email work for you, not the other way around. With a minimalist approach, you’ll spend less time managing your inbox and more time on what truly matters. Embrace the simplicity and efficiency of minimal folders, and watch your email productivity soar.

Email Clients?

Oh, and just in case you are wondering what email clients I use? Here are my top two!

Canary Mail

Canary Mail is an email client backed by $3.4 million in venture capital, super clean and with AI built in!

Thanks to OpenAI’s ChatGPT, Canary can collaborate with you and even handle your incoming emails. Additionally, Canary boasts features like read confirmations, intuitive keyboard shortcuts, and the handy option to put emails on snooze. Stand back and watch the magic unfold!

As far as email clients go, Canary Mail is a good deal, especially given its AI capabilities!


Another client that is excellent for email (and for custom signatures!) Mimestream. I used this for months in its Beta and purchased the official release.

Mimestream combines the power of macOS with Gmail’s advanced features for a new kind of email client that lets you move through your email effortlessly. This software isn’t like other email clients – it uses the Gmail API for a new kind of lightning-fast experience that’s full of features.

I especially like how I can integrate several business emails, each with their unique signatures that I generate in Canva – email me if you want more information on this!

Yeah, why pay $50 a year for an email signature generator?


The Minimal Mantra

In the grand circus of email juggling, who knew that fewer pins could make the act so much more dazzling? By embracing the minimalist folder mantra, you’re not just decluttering your inbox; you’re giving it a digital spa day!

So, wave goodbye to the days of playing hide-and-seek with your emails and say hello to the oh-so-neat world of minimalism. After all, less is more… especially when it comes to finding that email from Uncle Festus about his famous explosive recipe.

Happy streamlining, 🎪📧

photo of author


Steve Roberts is a full-time blogger, digital marketer, and freelance designer who also helps young Jedis make informed lightsaber decisions. Join Steve on this incredible journey, learning how to scale your business and entrepreneurial vision. His clients include organizations and businesses from Europe, Asia, Australia, and the USA.

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